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Bedwetting: What Can You Do About It?

Bedwetting: What Can You Do About It?My son and his best friend have been bugging us for months, their moms, to arrange a sleep over. The boys are keen, the moms aren’t. “Why not, mom?”, asked the two 6-year olds. “Because you guys are not yet ready for a sleep over.” The thing is, my son is ready but his friend is not. He has what I call “the hidden childhood problem.”

Moms are always ready to share tips with other moms on putting the baby to sleep, getting the baby to eat, even on potty training. As our babies grow older, we are also open to advice on asthma, food allergies, even social behavior. But there is a childhood problem that we tend to keep to ourselves, something that we feel should be kept private. In doctor speak, it’s called nocturnal enuresis. In layman terms, it’s called bedwetting. So why are we so reluctant to talk about bedwetting?

It’s embarrassing. The issue of bedwetting can feel like an embarrassment for both mommy and child. For mommy, some feel it’s an indication of failure as a mother. The question often asked is “what did I do wrong?” For the child, it has a strong social impact – think about sleepovers, slumber parties, and camp.

What causes bedwetting?

Bedwetting is not about laziness to get up and go to the bathroom. It is really about night time bladder control and may be due to a lot of reasons.

  • Biological –There are medical explanations for bedwetting and these include dysfunction of the urinary bladder due to delayed maturation, infections, hormonal imbalance. It could also be due to constipation, diabetes, and yes, even genetics. However, biological factors explain only 3% of bedwetting cases.
  • Psychological – The large majority of cases of bedwetting are due to psychological stress. Now, parents, before you start being defensive, psychological stress does not necessarily mean (though it includes) major issues like negligence, abuse, personal loss or disruption of family life. It could also be the little issues like a new bedroom, new residence, new school, new teacher, or loss of a security item. Psychological stress big and small can lead to sleep disorders and loss of bladder control.

It’s more common than you think.

If it is any comfort to you, bedwetting is more common than you think. Here’s some statistics from a WebMD article:

  • 5 to 7 million children who are potty-trained still wet their beds at night.
  • Bedwetting seems to be twice as common among boys as girls.
  • 15% of kids aged 5 still wet their beds from time to time.
  • 12% of children aged 6 still have this problem.
  • 95% of children aged 10 are dry at night.

What can you do about it?

  • Check your family history. According to pediatrician Dr. Howard Bennett, author of Waking Up Dry: A Guide to Help Children Overcome Bedwetting, 3 out of 4 kids with bedwetting issues have a first-degree relative who had the same problem as a child. Scientists have even mapped the specific genes involved!
  • Do not blame anybody. Unless there are really major family issues involved, bedwetting is nobody’s fault. It is important to communicate to your child that it is not his/her fault. Make sure that your child is aware he or she is not alone in this. It is hard not to be disapproving when you have to change and wash sheets every morning but putting pressure on your child that adds to the stress. And you shouldn’t blame yourself either.
  • Be patient. I had a sibling who had this problem and my mom’s attitude was “she’ll outgrow it” and eventually she did.
  • Minimize the damage.There are, however, things that you can do to minimize the risks and the damage. Here are some tips on bedwetting “damage control”:
    • Put on disposable diapers on preschoolers at night.
    • Make sure your child goes to the bathroom right before sleeping.
    • Restrict the amount of fluid intake close to bedtime.
    • Use bedwetting alarms that wake up the child.
    • Cover the mattress with a plastic mat.
  • Check with a health professional. Dr. Bennet believes that if bedwetting causes anxiety and social problems, then it is best that a health professional be consulted. A doctor can try to pinpoint the possible cause of the problem. There are certain exercises to stretch the bladder and increase its carrying capacity. There may be therapies to ease the psychological stress. Some doctors may even prescribe medications (though I am not really keen on this).

I am ready to give my son up for a night. I myself am ready to take damage control measures in case his best friend comes for a sleepover. My son’s best friend’s mom is embarrassed about her son’s problem and is reluctant to go for it.

What do you think?

Do you think I should push the issue or should I wait?

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